Hello there! James from mjelly.com here at Mobile Industry Review with another “Mobile 2.0 Service of the Week”. Last week we covered Mobamingle, a new service coming out of Japan, this week, we continue the international flava with a look at South Africa’s hottest mobile startup - the mobile social networking service Mxit.
What is it?
Mxit is a social mobile application. The service is focused around allowing users to communicate with each other via messages (cheaper than sending an SMS). Mxit has extended this functionality into file sharing, rich messaging e.g. audio, photos, emoticons and even the ability to send a “vibe” or vibration alert to someone. There’s also a group chat function to allow you to chat with a group of your friends and interfaces to all the major IM networks (AIM, gtalk, MSN etc). Mxit is available for virtually all Java phones and recently launched the new MXit Elite for smart-phones, a MXit client for Blackberry and is looking to launch an iphone app.
There are now quite a few similar services which we have previously covered here on Mobile Industry Review such as Nimbuzz, Heysan, ebuddy and mig33 but Mxit was one of the first to develop this kind of service and still retains a lot of unique features.
At the moment, Mxit’s user base is concentrated in South Africa where they completely dominate with 9m+ users from a population of 44m – pretty good going – I can’t think of any mobile apps with that kind of penetration in Europe or the US. They are beginning to expand into other markets with around 2m users outside of SA, including 1m in Indonesia. Their South African user base is driving some pretty impressive usage figures:
- Average Number of Downloads Per Day: 15-20k
- 17m logins per day
- 250 m messages sent per day
The company is based in sunny Cape Town as is partly owned (30%) by Naspers, which is the equivalent of News Corp in South Africa, owning TV and publishing assets. Could we see media companies in Europe and the US start to buy up mobile services like this?
Why is it interesting?
There is soooo much to say about Mxit as it is really far ahead of the game in a range of areas…
Firstly, Mxit was probably the first mobile social networking service to go mass market outside of Asia. As early as 2006 if you talked to any teenager in South Africa with enough cash to have a java enabled phone and top it up with credit they would tell you about Mxit NOT facebook or myspace. As a result, Mxit has faced a lot of issues that mobile communities in Europe and the US might face going forward. For example, they have had to deal with a lot of press around dangers to children from using the service.
Secondly, Mxit is has extended it platform over time into a range of new areas -way beyond simple mobile chat and IM features. They have developed their own internal currency “Moola” which allows users to access premium features like specific chat-rooms, buy “skins” for their app and so on. A range of different organisations and people are using the platform to deliver different types of services including maths education – where a student can ask questions of a tutor over the Mxit Platform. Mxit is effectively pioneering mobile education in Africa which has amazing potential.
Like itsmy.com Mxit are developing new kinds of mobile advertising propositions. For example, advertisers can create sponsored “skins” or develop their own chat rooms and competitions.
Mxit is also another example of the power of cheap data to grow mobile services. The reason Mxit took off in South Africa is that the mobile networks made it very cheap to buy GPRS data, even for prepaid users. At the same time, fixed broadband is incredibly expensive. This allowed Mxit to become more popular than PC-based social networks and suggests that as mobile data costs come down in the US and Europe, mobile social networks could overtake things like facebook and myspace…
It’s great to see a startup from Africa really leading the market in mobile and Mxit has a great chance to successfully expand internationally.